The best improv and writing tool ever

Are you stuck for ideas for your scenes and stories? Want a tool to help you start now, with no thinking required? Want to instantly find a character, activity, situation and sense of urgency?

This might be the tool for you!

In my opinion it is the best improv and writing tool ever.

I found it by accident while improv-swotting for the Wurzburg Improv Festival. I haven’t improvised for a while, so was searching for a way to practice by myself, before I meet other improvisers and ruin their lives.

After reading a wonderful article on improv by Dan Goldstein, I was inspired by the idea of starting scenes with an ATTITUDE, and an ACTIVITY on a SPECIAL DAY.

Then I remembered the fantastic Brainstormer App! Simply input three lists and they will display on three spinning wheels. Spin each wheel and receive a unique random scene-starter!


Here are some of the lists I used:

Mischievous, depressed, angry, jealous, moaning, virtuous, vain, suspicious, confused, elated, drunk, grieving…

Dancing, hiding, tickling, writing, drinking, polishing, practising, copying, stretching, jogging…

Olympic final, anniversary of Hitler’s death, our wedding day, the day I admit I love your brother, your birthday, grandma’s 100th birthday, driving test, the day I get knighted…

So a random combination could be:

…which prompted this scene: the Saudi Arabian team have entered us at short notice into the Diving Finals. We have never dived before! So I put on a video of Tom Daley and we watch and figure out how to dive like a champion!

I tried combination after combination and really enjoyed creating an entrance and first line for the scene it prompted. It also occurred to me how awesome a tool this was for writer’s block or for story generation.

You can make your own categories and lists using the Brainstormer App. If you don’t have a smartphone or iPad, make cards, or simply print your lists, close your eyes and point!

Well happy storytelling, folks!

Let’s see if this simple tool makes us better writers and improvisers : )

The Timeboard – get creative with your scheduling

Are you a creative, looking to improve your scheduling? Is your schedule different every week?  Are you sick of reading business guides about scheduling that have no relevance to creatives?

Jenna Hubbard, Project Assistant at ICE, recently introduced me to the concept of a Timeboard. And no, this has nothing to do with Doctor Who or time travelling.  

Get creative with your scheduling!

A Timeboard is just a simple way of scheduling for creatives.  It is extremely useful when you have certain core activities but your schedule changes every week.
It’s very simple.  You take a big piece of paper and split it into seven columns, one for each day of the week.  Label each column clearly.  Then grab some coloured Post-Its and a marker pen. Each Post-It becomes a block of time.  Let’s say Monday you spend two hours emailing.  Great, just write Email, 2 hours on one colour of Post-It. Then stick it on the chart under Monday.  Put different kinds of activities in different colours.

Afterwards, take a red pen and a blue pen and put stars on the Post-Its.  A red star indicates where you give energy.  A blue star indicates where you receive energy.  This can help you keep track of how energising or tiring your weeks are, and prevent burn-out.

Then once a week you can sit down and plan your week ahead.  If things change, no worries! Just take off one Post-It and replace it with another.

If you suddenly have a week-long project that usurps everything else,   When a week changes like this, the way you spend your days changes. All those housekeeping, adminny things get left behind.  Maybe emailing goes out of the window. No problem! Can you fit emailing in on a Sunday evening?  Or will you just lose emailing for a week and survive?  

Take off the Post-Its for activities you don’t do, and put them under or around your Timeboard. Then you can clearly see what you have, and have not made time for.  

You can see the dotted red line on my Timeboard separates my schedule from those activities I haven’t made time for.  I don’t have much wall space, so I put mine onto A1 card I can move around my flat.  

A few weeks after I made my Timeboard, there had been no progress in one area of my business.  I checked my Timeboard to find this was the one Post-It that repeatedly never made it into my schedule.  No surprise there’s been no change!

The Timeboard is a revolution for me, and one of the best scheduling tools I have ever seen for creatives.

What you put on your Timeboard is entirely up to you.  If meditation is vital to your daily schedule, put it in!  On mine I have my yoga classes, time for walks and I have even figured in time for creative play.

So get yourself a Timeboard, and get creative with your schedule.

Make information active and develop yourself with Do Notes

Do you spend time reading new information?  Do you regularly take in new stimuli? Do you allow yourself time to absorb your influences?

This question was raised by Todd Henry in an Accidental Creative podcast recently. It got me thinking: I love research, I love new stimuli, but do I really take it all in? Do I give myself time to integrate the new information I am gathering?

I work creatively with children in schools and notice that children’s attention spans lessen every year.  It is the world we live in.  We want everything to be instant.  The internet has turned us into a ‘click and scan’ generation.  No longer do we spend time really living information, or absorbing it.  But it is by going deeper into something that we make new links and create meaning for our own lives.

Modern life prefers us to skate the surface, skim-reading until we find the morsel we want, and blaming Google if we can’t find it within a minute or two.

Information has become disposable.

However, research shows that the most successful people both read and integrate new ideas.  They do take time to explore its hidden depths.  Successful people take the time to cogitate, to think, to philosophise.  And most importantly, this leads them to new ideas and innovation.

So how do we make sure we absorb and integrate new stimuli?

Engagement and participation are key to long-term retention of learning.  The more active you are in your learning, the more you learn.

So is there a tool we can use when surfing, or reading to help us become more active?  Is there a tool we can use that take our learning forwards?

I got to thinking about this and came up with the Do Note:

The Do Note will help you turn words into actions.


The Do Note is designed to help you turn words into actions.  When you read new information, it asks you to think about it.  It asks you to plan what you want to do with your learning.  How will you move it forwards?  These become your Action bullet points.  In this way, you absorb stimulus better and keep its momentum rolling forwards.  

Let’s say you use a Do Note on this blog, right now.

The title is Do Note. The date is the 1st of June.  The summary is ways to make learning permanent. The action points are:

  • turn scrap paper into Do Notes
  • listen to podcast with Do Note
  • collect Do Notes every week and order relevant books from Amazon

In this way, you have created a list of actions you want to take, following the information you have just learned.

Your brain is no longer passive, but active in creating the next step.

Want your own Do Note?  Simply save this image and print it out, use the template above to create an iPhone Note, or even better, recycle your scrap paper and make your own Do Notes.

I keep Do Note handy as I surf the web and read blogs.  Whenever I get hooked on some new information, I fill in a Do Note.  I have found them particularly useful when listening to podcasts.  There are often questions raised in podcasts I’d like to explore more, and using Do Notes now helps my learning move forwards.

In this way, my new influences are becoming active and are starting to have a faster, stronger impact on my life.